SOUTH HOLLAND — Wednesday night's boys regional semifinal basketball game at Thornwood High School between the Minooka Indians and Lincoln-Way North Phoenix lived up to its billing. After an incredible fourth quarter of play, the Phoenix were able to edge the Indians 52-49, advancing to the regional championship game against Bloom Friday night back at Thornwood.
The second half was some of the most exciting 16 minutes of the season for both teams, as North had taken an eight-point advantage into the break. Minooka responded, though, as a the Indians cut it down to one before eventually trailing 35-32 in the fourth.
That's where the chaos would take place, as back-to-back buckets seniors Darrin Myers and Jake Hogen gave Minooka its first lead, 36-35. The biggest momentum change happened just after that, however, as the Phoenix missed a jumper, followed by a loose ball scramble for the rebound. After the ball bounced around a couple times, it landed into the hands of Lincoln-Way's Denton Wallace, who then buried a three-point shot to give the Phoenix a two-point lead for good.
"It was close really from there on out," Minooka coach Scott Tanaka said. "If we make a stop there, who knows how the game goes. Every game comes down to possessions. You can go back to the first quarter and say something about it."
Minooka kept it within a six-point game throughout the entire quarter. Then, with about eight seconds left in the game, the Phoenix fouled Hogen shooting a three pointer, sending the senior to the free throw line. Hogen made all three to make it a 51-49 game.
After another foul from Minooka, Wallace came down and only made one free throw for Lincoln-Way. This gave the Indians one more chance to tie the game and send it to overtime. After a timeout from Tanaka, Myers took the ball, put up a three, and missed it, ending Minooka's potential comeback.
"When you shoot 2-14 from three point land, only 8-17 from the free throw line and still have a chance to win that game, it's a great testament to the way our team plays, their work ethic, and how this team came together," Tanaka said.
It was the final game for seniors Hogen, Myers, Adam Holstine, Perry Jones and Kevin Stelmaszek. For Hogen, he leaves after a solid four-year run on the varsity level, leaving as the first Minooka player to score 1,000 points in a career, finishing with 1,022.
"I think I'm just going to miss the in-and-out, everyday hanging around with the guys stuff," Hogen said. "I've gotten really close with the guys, and I think that's what I'm going to miss most."